London/Karachi:While Pakistan is playing a friendly match against Somerset on Thursday, its three cricketers accused of spot-fixing will be otherwise occupied, explaining their actions to a formidable committee.
Those interrogating them will include three members of Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (a national inquiry has been ordered by the Pakistani government). The Pakistani High Commissioner to London will be present. So will the Chairman of the English Cricket Board, Giles Clarke. (Read: PCB won't drop players without proof)
Captain Salman Butt, and bowlers Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir were originally scheduled to be questioned today. That meeting was postponed, giving them another day to prepare their defence. The evidence against them is rooted in an expose that was front-paged by a UK tabloid over the weekend. An undercover reporter met a businessman named Mazhar Majeed who delivered this somewhat sinister promise: that three no-balls would be bowled in the England vs Pakistan Test match at Lord's at times predetermined by Majeed. The no-balls were delivered by Asif and Amir. (Pics: Past incidents)
In hidden camera conversations and footage - Majeed is shown passing a jacket with 10,000 pounds to Pakistani team members - have forced the International Cricket Council (ICC) to confront urgently and publicly the persistent allegations of corruption and match-fixing. Sources in the ICC say the organization's Anti-Corruption Unit has been studying, among others, the three Pakistani cricketers who appear to have been outed by the Majeed episode. (Read: What is spot fixing?)
The ICC, like the English Cricket Board, has expressed its desire for the rest of the England vs Pakistan series to continue a scheduled - it includes five one-day games. However, senior English players want Asif, Amir and Butt to be dropped. (Video Special: Pak match-fixing scandal)
Professional Cricketers' Association chief executive Angus Porter said England players want the International Cricket Council to take decisive action before Sunday's Twenty20 International at Cardiff. (Read)
"The England players understand it is important the games go ahead and they will be professional but they would or will find it really difficult to play against the guys directly implicated," Porter said.
Despite public protests against the players at home, the Pakistan Cricket Board says the players have not been dropped as yet for the one-day games. Reactions from the team in London have been limited. Coach Waqar Younis said he is focusing on "trying to get the team up again and deliver the best we can in the next few games, do the best we can, that's the best I can do." (Watch: Did Pakistan fix these matches)
Majeed was arrested by Scotland Yard on Sunday and released without any charges being pressed. He was questioned today by the Department of Revenue and Customs.
Contributing to the official inquiry is Asif's ex-girlfriend and actor Veena Malik whose previous 15 minutes of fame was provided via a vicious break-up with the cricketer earlier this year. Malik was allegedly questioned in Pakistan today by a member of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit. She has told NDTV that she has proof, mainly in the form of cellphone records, that Asif regularly collaborated in spot-fixing, sometimes with the help of an Indian photographer, Dhiraj Dixit. He has denied Malik's version of events.
The ICC has its own virtue to defend. Critics - including former cricketers of considerable stature- have questioned why it took a UK tabloid to articulate what the ICC claims it has been trying to corroborate for months through its Anti-Corruption squad. "I'm at a loss for words to describe how not just myself, but every loving cricketer and fan of this wonderful sport will be feeling right now," said Haroon Lorgat, the CEO of the ICC.
(With PTI Inputs)